I’d heard about this unique event for a few years from my good buddy, Larry Case, of “Guns and Cornbread” fame. I always turned a bit green whenever Larry told me about his latest foray into the squirrel woods of Alabama, and especially when he bragged on the company he kept during such a dalliance. Imagine my delight and utter surprise to get a coveted invitation this year to attend, and to be on a team for the GAMO Squirrel Master Classic.
Sponsored by Pyramid Air
GAMO Squirrel Master Classic
Jackie Bushman, of Buckmasters’ fame, is the creator behind this event, who eight years ago he decided to capitalize on the success of such feats as the Bass Master Classic and Deer Classic, to host the Squirrel Master Classic. It helps that his stomping grounds, outside of Montgomery, Alabama, happen to include the famous Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge, which hosted the hunt.
The concept goes like this: Teams of celebrities (think Michael Waddell, Nick Mundt, Ralph and Vickie Cianciarulo, Buck Commander, T. Bone and the list goes on) get paired with media people such as Larry and me, and also, to throw an element of youth into the mix, with local kids from the 4-H shooting program, along with squirrel dogs and their handlers. This year’s event did not have a shooting competition, but we zeroed our GAMO precision pellet air rifles before we donned our orange vests and went into the woods. It became all about the hunt.
GAMO is a sponsor of this event, and I shot a Swarm Fusion 10X GEN2 .22 Multi-shot air rifle. It’s the second generation from the family of Swarm and what I really think is handy is the horizontal magazine placement that holds 10 pellets.
In this version of the gun, the 10-shot rotary magazine got flipped on its side. Yes, think about that … it easily clicks into place and also, indicates when it’s depleted. Simply look down at the magazine, click a button to remove it and place another one – all in a matter of seconds.
This little number also comes with a 3-9×40 scope, fiber optic front and rear sights, an all-weather stock, recoil pad, sound dampening and of utmost importance, a manual safety. We put slings on the guns, which made it a lot easier to move fast through the woods.
I had the honor to be on Team AirgunWebTV, now in its 5th season. Host of the show Rick Eutlser, and his nephew, Sam, along with one of the show’s stars Angie Perry (Airgun Angie), joined outdoor writer Frank Melloni, our 4-H guy (Braxton Delgado) and me to make up the team.
We also had up to three dogs working, along with up to three dog handlers, a representative of the land owner and another camera person associated with the show. So we had a bunch of folks chasing after the dogs – that kept treeing squirrels. I mean chasing, to the tune of five miles per day across creeks and through mud and down into hollers. It reminded me a bit of my terrain here in the Ozarks. I mean my socks balled up under my feet in my rubber boots. Remind me: take my wader socks if there is a next time.
After the first day, we gathered for the count. I believe we only had 11 squirrels in the bag, as compared to the winning team of the Bone Collector, that brought down 33. The Raised Hunting team came in a close second at 32. We sat in last place. However, to be honest, we lost a man (due to health reasons) early in the game and our team got separated and we never saw half our team again till dinner time.
On the second day, we got a worthy sub in – Jake Eaton from Media Direct – for our missing man, and we brought back 25 squirrels for a total of 36. Raised Hunting brought in 28 for a grand total of 60, and won the prize of the coveted squirrel trophies. Rumor has it that either Bushman or Waddell’s teams always win, so it was refreshing to see the new kids, with the little kids in tow and another female outdoor writer (Barb Melloni) on the team.
I enjoyed the camaraderie, the competition and also, having youth involved. I liked talking to the dog handlers, who are like proud papas when it comes to their dogs. Indeed, some of the best dog handlers drove hours to participate in this event.
The Southern Sportsman Hunting Lodge kept the coffee (and showers) hot and the Southern cooking sizzling throughout the course of the hunt. Frank, who hails from Long Island, says part of the reason he likes attending this event is for the Southern food he finds here. He even likes grits.
I’m looking forward to taking this GAMO Swarm Fusion air rifle out into our squirrel woods, to see if I can get my limit here in the Ozarks during the season, sans dogs. In the meantime, I’ll be watching to see new episodes featuring the event on Buckmasters, Bone Collector and AirgunWebTV.
Interested in an air rifle for your outdoor hunting or plinking adventures? Check the inventory over at Pyramyd Air.